Last hope for anti-Trump camp is Elec­toral...

Last hope for anti-Trump camp is Elec­toral Col­lege

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Amer­i­cans aghast over the idea of Don­ald Trump as pres­i­dent are turn­ing to the Elec­toral Col­lege - the some­what puz­zling, much crit­i­cized in­sti­tu­tion that will make it of­fi­cial - as a last-ditch re­course to halt the in­evitable. Its 538 mem­bers - the gov­ern­ment says it is not even a body, re­ally, but rather a process - will vote Dec 19 to for­mally con­firm Trump’s stun­ning win over Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton in the Novem­ber 8 elec­tion.

Clin­ton won the pop­u­lar vote by two per­cent­age points, but Trump took the only thing that mat­tered: A ma­jor­ity of the elec­toral col­lege, and a healthy one at that: 306 to 232. There are Amer­i­cans out there who want the col­lege to de­clare Clin­ton the win­ner, any­way, be­cause she tri­umphed in the pop­u­lar vote. In 21 states, elec­tors can vote their con­science, re­gard­less of who won the pop­u­lar vote in their state and - thus in the­ory at least all that state’s elec­toral votes.

But it is ex­tremely rare for an elec­tor to go rogue. It has hap­pened just nine times since World War II, says FairVote, a non-par­ti­san group work­ing for elec­toral re­form. For peo­ple op­posed to Trump - the shoot­from-the-hip property ty­coon with no ex­pe­ri­ence in gov­ern­ment, the man who in­sulted women, mi­nori­ties and Mus­lims dur­ing the cam­paign and has the world watch­ing closely as he hints at up­end­ing decades of US for­eign pol­icy with blasts of predawn tweets - the nu­clear elec­toral col­lege op­tion is a god­send.

But it is a fool’s er­rand, to be sure. It would take 37 Repub­li­can elec­tors jump­ing ship and not vot­ing for Trump. If that were to hap­pen, in the­ory at least the choice of the next pres­i­dent would go to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. But be­fore it got there, ju­di­cial chaos would al­most cer­tainly break out. Lis­ten to film­maker Michael Moore, one of the anti-Trump peo­ple dream­ing of sal­va­tion: “54 per­cent of the vot­ers didn’t want Don­ald Trump. Only 46 per­cent did.”

In­deed, that was Trump’s pop­u­lar vote tally - ac­tu­ally 46.2 per­cent - com­pared to 48.2 per­cent for for­mer sec­re­tary of state Clin­ton. The elec­tion year has been ut­terly crazy, Moore added. “So is it pos­si­ble - just pos­si­ble - that in these next six weeks, some­thing else might hap­pen, some­thing crazy, some­thing we’re not ex­pect­ing?” he added, speak­ing last week on “Late Night with Seth Mey­ers”.

Jim Himes, a Demo­cratic con­gress­man, is on board. He told CNN the Elec­toral Col­lege now has an in­her­ent re­spon­si­bil­ity to step up and avert disas­ter. Himes said of the col­lege: “If it ex­ists, why would it ex­ist but for any other pur­pose than what it could do in one week, which is to say - and some­thing that I think the ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans I think prob­a­bly be­lieve to­day which is that we’re about to make a pres­i­dent who is dan­ger­ous.”

It is lonely out there for these naysay­ers. But at least one Repub­li­can elec­tor, Chris Suprun of Texas, has said that he can­not vote for Trump, ar­gu­ing among other things that the Repub­li­can ty­coon is not qual­i­fied for the job. Democrats are com­plain­ing about the elec­toral col­lege sys­tem but the Repub­li­cans are not lis­ten­ing.


The process is en­shrined in the US Con­sti­tu­tion of 1787. Amer­ica’s found­ing fa­thers saw it as a rea­son­able com­pro­mise be­tween elect­ing pres­i­dents through a di­rect pop­u­lar vote - which would fa­vor can­di­dates from states with large pop­u­la­tions - and hav­ing Congress do the choos­ing, which was seen as not very demo­cratic. The Con­sti­tu­tion lets states de­cide how to choose their elec­tors. In the be­gin­ning, state leg­is­la­tures des­ig­nated them and it would be decades be­fore it be­came vot­ers them­selves who chose these peo­ple.

Re­form at­tempts fail

Re­forms have been pro­posed many times - es­pe­cially from the late 1940s through 1979, ac­cord­ing to a con­gres­sional re­port, but ev­ery time, they failed. Trump him­self called the sys­tem a mess in 2012, but af­ter he won, he said it was “ge­nius”. Af­ter Clin­ton lost, a bill was pro­posed - by a fe­male Demo­cratic se­na­tor - to sim­ply do away with the elec­toral col­lege. It has zero chance of pas­sage.

The most solid move­ment for change cir­cum­vents the daunt­ing task of amend­ing the con­sti­tu­tion and would in­stead cre­ate a coali­tion of states that agree to al­lo­cate their elec­toral votes to the win­ner of the na­tion­wide pop­u­lar vote. This ini­tia­tive is called the Na­tional Pop­u­lar Vote In­ter­state Com­pact. So far, 11 states rep­re­sent­ing 165 elec­toral votes have adopted this ar­range­ment. They are still far from the 270 needed for the re­form to be­come a re­al­ity.

On Mon­day, 10 elec­tors found another rea­son to per­haps not vote for Trump: A CIA find­ing that Rus­sian hack­ing of US in­sti­tu­tions and peo­ple dur­ing the White House race was aimed specif­i­cally at hurt­ing Clin­ton and there­fore help­ing him win. “If there is se­ri­ous in­ter­fer­ence in our elec­tion from a for­eign state that im­pacted the elec­tion, that is some­thing that the elec­tors should know and on the ba­sis of that in­for­ma­tion, vote their con­science,” one of them, Clay Pell of Rhode Is­land, said. — AFP

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